For 50 years, CDCR employee Steve Tyllesen has served residents by helping the department fulfill its mission. He began as a correctional officer, worked through the ranks and retired as a background investigator. Today, he’s a retired annuitant, working as part of the team recruiting the next generation of correctional officers.
Background investigator reflects on 50 years
When did you start with the Department and why did you choose corrections?
I started working for the Department on March of 1973. I was assigned to the Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI). Prior to being hired, I was a college student with no clue of what I was going to be. My father, who worked in the Accounting Office at DVI, told me to apply for a correctional officer job. I took his advice and the rest is history.
Where have you worked, and what positions have you held?
I was a Correctional Officer at DVI from 1973 through 1981. Then, I transferred to Green Valley Conservation Camp #12. In 1984, I took a Sergeant promotion at Mount Gleason Conservation Camp in Palmdale. In 1986, I transferred to the Fresno Background Investigation Office. Two years later, I made Lieutenant at the Fresno Parole Unit, which was called the Substance Abuse Treatment Unit (SATU).
I transferred to a Lieutenant position in the Fresno Background Unit in 1999, where I remained until my first retirement in December 2004. Near the beginning of 2006, I began working as a Retired Annuitant (RA) in the Background Unit. I officially reinstated in 2007 and retired for the second time in 2008. Shortly after my second retirement, I returned as an RA in the Background Investigation Unit where I still remain today.
What kind of hobbies do you enjoy?
Oh boy, I wish I had some hobbies. When I was younger, I used to enjoy playing softball. Nowadays, I am a big fan of sports and I really enjoy fantasy football. Actually, I consider this RA work as a hobby. I love the type of work and the money is not bad either.
Witnessing a half century of change
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen during your time with the department?
I attended the second ever Correctional Officer Academy, which was held at Modesto Junior College. The primary weapon we fired was a very hard recoiling 30-06 rifle, which after a day of shooting, left all of us cadets with bruised shoulders. In ’73, when I started, we were not considered peace officers and the incarcerated basically had no rights. Also, there weren’t any female Correctional Officers at my institution. The department has changed so much since then with all of the training. It’s much safer as a result.
What advice would you give someone just starting out their CDCR career?
I would say there is going to be highs and lows, but overall it’s a great career. Always use good judgement and follow the rules. Hold on, because the years will fly by.
What do you enjoy about what you do now for the department?
I really enjoy the investigative work I do. In addition, I love the comradery in the Central Field Office. It is a great place to work. I am thankful for the relationships with my coworkers and supervisors. I hope to keep on doing this for as long as I am able to.
By Lt. Gary Nash, Office of Peace Officer Selection
Learn how to become a correctional officer.